Welcome!

.NET Authors: Pat Romanski, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, ChandraShekar Dattatreya, Jayaram Krishnaswamy, Jim Kaskade

Related Topics: .NET, Open Source, AJAX & REA, Open Web, Cloud Expo

.NET: Blog Feed Post

For Thirty Pieces of Silver My Product Can Beat Your Product

Computing hardware suffered the steepest spending decline of the four major IT spending category segments in 2009

One of the side-effects of the rapid increases in compute power combined with an explosion of Internet users has been the need for organizations to grow their application  infrastructures to support more and more load. That means higher capacity everything – from switches to routers to application delivery infrastructure to the applications themselves.  Cloud computing has certainly stepped up to address this, providing the means by which organizations can efficiently and more cost-effectively increase capacity. Between cloud computing and increasing demands on applications there is a need for organizations to invest in the infrastructure necessary to build out a new network, one that can handle the load and integrate into the broader ecosystem to enable automation and ultimately orchestration.

Indeed, Denise Dubie of Network World pulled together data from analyst firms Gartner and Forrester and the trend in IT spending shows that hardware is king this year.

blockquote"Computing hardware suffered the steepest spending decline of the four major IT spending category segments in 2009. However, it is now forecast to enjoy the joint strongest rebound in 2010," said George Shiffler, research director at Gartner, in a statement.

That is, of course, good news for hardware vendors. The bad news is that the perfect storm of increasing capacity needs, massively more powerful compute resources, and the death of objective third party performance reviews result in a situation that forces would-be IT buyers to rely upon third-parties to provide “real-world” performance data to assist in the evaluation of solutions. The ability – or willingness - of an organization to invest in the hardware or software solutions to generate the load necessary to simulate “real-world” traffic on any device is minimal and unsurprising. Performance testing products like those from Spirent and Ixia are not inexpensive, and the investment is hard to justify because it isn’t used very often.  But without such solutions it is nearly impossible for an organization to generate the kind of load necessary to really test out potential solutions. And organizations need to test them out because they, themselves, are not inexpensive and it’s perfectly understandable that an organization wants to make sure their investment is in a solution that performs as advertised. That means relying on third-parties who have made the investment in performance testing solutions and can generate the kind of load necessary to test vendor claims.

image

 

That’s bad news because many third-parties aren’t necessarily interested in getting at the truth, they’re interested in getting at the check that’s cut at the end of the test. Because it’s the vendor cutting that check and not the customer, you can guess who’s interests are best served by such testing.


COMPETITIVE versus COMPARATIVE

Now generally speaking such third-party “reviews” (and I use that term loosely) are purported to be “comparative”. But what they really are is competitive; they are specifically fingerscrossed2designed (paid for) to be used by sales folks in competitive situations. You can tell these tests aren’t really comparative because they purport to be testing the same product (in the sense that they’re designed to do the same thing) but one of the two products being “compared” turns out to be less capable in the speeds and feeds department. The product which the test is designed to highlight will be rated for 2GBps of throughput while the competitive platform will be rated for only 1GBps. It’s like setting up a race between a 4 year old and a 2 year old. Guess which one is going to win? (I’d put my money on the 4 year old, by the way, and on the higher-throughput rated device. Longer legs, you see.)

It’s not that these tests aren’t valuable. They are – for the product of the vendor who cut the check. The performance results for the product being highlighted are almost certainly valid, having been tested under the watchful eye of the commissioner of the test and tweaked by experts who know how to squeeze out every last gigabit of performance (don’t forget to ask if the services of experts is included in the purchase price of $product). But for the “compared” products? Not so useful. Such tests often claim to have had the competitive products’ configuration verified by a certified $vendor expert. That sounds impressive, until you discover that $vendor doesn’t have any “certified” experts. Worse, the “certified” experts aren’t affiliated with $vendor because the invitation to participate came a week before the test was being concluded, giving $vendor no time in which to find the appropriate expert and allow them to travel to assist. It’s a purposefully deceitful practice that, in my days of comparative testing, would have been loudly protested. Two months before testing begins, not two weeks before testing ends, was the rule for sending invitations then, back when comparative meant comparative and not merely competitive.

Of course we weren’t paid for our services, either. We were paid to evaluate products and provide all the details for IT purchasers so they had the data necessary to help them compile a short list of $vendor products to test themselves. We were not in the business of producing a competitive document that could be used to convince customers of the superiority of $product at any cost.


THE GIGAFLUX FACTOR

An interesting side-effect of paying for a competitive test is that if you’re the one paying for it, you get to decide what data goes into the report. Don’t like how one of the performance tests came out? Don’t include it. Handily beat the competitor in CPU utilization even though without detailing the test scenario such a comparison is irrelevant? Don’t just include it, make sure it’s a major point of “comparison”. Using a different definition for a performance metric than the rest of the industry because it makes $product appear to perform better? Highlight the result, but do not under any circumstances include your definition of that performance metric. Even better is to make up a performance metric; I’m partial to gigafluxes per second, which is a completely made up metric but sounds like it might be valid and thus might fool enough potential customers into purchases to pay for the cost of the test. If you see it in the wild, drop me a line; you know I always enjoy a good laugh.

In one recent paid test, a $20K 1Gbps application delivery controller was competitively tested against a 4Gbps Load-Balancer selling for over $50K.  Guess what, the $50K Load-Balancer was faster.  But you would never know that from the report because nothing in the report indicates that the two devices were of two completely different classes in terms of performance and functionality. That’s why this post includes ten objective questions you should ask any vendor when presented with “independent” competitive test reports. Integrity is not something you buy, it’s something you earn in the process of helping customers make informed decisions.

If the vendor who paid for the test cannot answer any one of these questions adequately, you should probably read the report very skeptically and treat it simply as another sales tool for the vendor. You shouldn’t read it as a tool for making a good product choice.

I could go on and on about all the ways in which these competitive tests are intentionally obfuscating the truth but I’ve already done that years ago in “Vendorspeak Exposed!” and the marketing tactics upon which that lengthy diatribe was based haven’t changed one whit, except that perhaps because of circumstances vendors are now forced to rely more than ever on third-party pay-for-play competitive testing. But the same tactics – false precision, deceptive eye-candy, misleading metric definitions, incomplete configuration and test-bed documentation – are still used by those third-party firms. And I can’t even blame them for doing so because they have to pay bills, too. But at least they could be honest about it and not pretend that they conduct comparative testing when they’re really providing competitive reports.

What it comes down to is that fairly executed, comparative product reviews are dead. But as Mike Rothman commented in his lament, “The Death of Product Reviews”, folks in the trenches still need information and guidance in making product decisions.

blockquote What now for the folks in the trenches? Once the hangover from the wake subsides, we still need information and guidance in making product decisions. So what to do? That's a topic for another post, but it has to do with structuring the internal proof of concept tests to reflect the way the product will be used -- rather than how the vendor wants to run the test.

-- Mike Rothman, “The Death of Product Reviews

So what’s a poor IT trencher to do? Data sheets from $vendor provide performance data, yes. But that data is “best case scenario”. It should be read as “this is the best performance you will see out this product, YMMV.” Mike’s suggestion to structure internal proof of concept tests to reflect real-world usage is a good one, though it may be difficult to implement in practice (we talked about the cost factor earlier, which makes internal POC testing a tad cost-prohibitive). The rise of cloud computing may actually be a boon for organizations in this regard. The availability of on-demand compute resources that can be leveraged to generate load for testing real-world capacity and performance limitations makes it more possible today than it ever was for organizations to generate the kind of load necessary to determine capacity based on their real-world usage. Even better are cloud-based load testing services like SOASTA and LoadImpact that have the foundation for test harnesses built into their platforms and can generate load against devices and sites remotely in what is certainly more real-world than a closed, sterile lab environment. The latter is better, in my opinion, because it stresses the entire infrastructure just as it would be stressed under real load. Just don’t kick off a load test during business hours – you don’t want to find a bottleneck in your network by DoSing it when folks are trying to work.

I’m not saying ignore competitive reports when they’re offered. In fact, they can offer you some insight into what questions you should be asking all the vendors involved in your acquisition process. I am saying that while the veracity of the report with regards to the $vendor product being referenced is likely trustworthy, the rest of the report probably needs to be viewed through a lens of skepticism and with the understanding that it is a competitive report, not a comparative one.

After all, would you pay upwards of $40,000 for a report in which your product didn’t come out on top?


Related blogs & articles:

Follow me on Twitter View Lori's profile on SlideShare friendfeed icon_facebook

AddThis Feed Button Bookmark and Share

Technorati Tags: ,,,,,,,,,,

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

@ThingsExpo Stories
There's Big Data, then there's really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, discussed how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.